The Myth of Being Fearless

I finally purchased my blogger douchebag card also known as writing a mission statement. Don’t go looking for it on this site. It’s not here. Ultimately, I can’t bring myself to be the kind of person with a “Mission” page atop my homepage as though we’re about to go fight in the Battle of Bull Run. No. This is just writing. It’s not that serious.

However, upon Emily’s recommendation, I did think it was time to anchor what I’m trying to achieve with a few words. I spent a Friday night pulling ideas together on a Keynote presentation (yes, my life is as exhilarating as it sounds.) I then spent a Saturday morning with Emily in a coffee shop picking apart words on slides titled “mission”, “audience” and “blog’s personality.” We devoted a good deal of time to coming up with four or five words to describe my ideal audience. In the past, I’ve described my audience as “observant, irreverent and unconventional women.” I like the word “irreverent” a little too much. Emily made a valid point that irreverent isn’t a word that carries the best connotation; in other words, it makes my ideal audience sound like a bunch of assholes. So we hit up for a substitute.

“Fearless?” I asked her.

Before she could reply, I scoffed and said, “Ugh, that’s so ‘Cosmopolitan.'” (No, really, their motto is “Fun Fearless Female“. I am arguably only one of those things.)

We scanned the synonyms a bit more and finally landed on “courageous”. It stuck.

There are a few words, often times used in the context of feminism, that make me cringe. Empower is one. Fearless is another. I am also a flaming hypocrite who recently used both in a profile I wrote for Be Moxie…go figure. Fearless’ noun cousin “fearlessness” is also in the title of my upcoming fall event. Ok, maybe I’m not making the best case for myself but jive with me. Hypocrisy aside, I think we like to fling around the word fearless too much. It wasn’t until I sat there with Emily pontificating about my ideal audience that I realized what a crock of shit it is to say how “fearless” we are.

Earlier this year, I penned a Q&A for GG Renee Hill’s “All The Many Layers” recapping the “See. Speak. Feel.” showcase. There is a bit of that feature that I always return to when I consider fear:

Did you have any fears or insecurities leading up to the event and if so, what did you do to push through?
Yes, yes and yes. I lost A LOT of sleep over the showcase. During every stage of the planning, I worried. I worried that people would not reach out to perform or showcase their art. I worried that people would not buy tickets (and we ended up with a sold out show…go figure.) I worried that something would go horribly awry that night. That being said, I don’t know if there was anything specific I did to push through. I just felt so invested in the success of that night that it felt as though I had no choice but to push through. I got to a point where I so badly wanted to see it all come together so there was no way I could turn back. And, my money was on the line. Money will keep you invested real quick. defines fear as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” 

When I look at that definition of fear, nothing about it strikes me as wrong, limiting or terrible. Fear is not toxic by itself; how we choose to respond to that fear determines its toxicity. For some people, fear is an insurmountable brick wall. For others, it’s an adrenaline rush. For some people, fear is an arrow telling them to run in the other direction. For others, it’s an arrow telling them to run in that same direction. Fear pushes and pulls each of us in varying ways.

In the context of my writing and blog, fear is what I use to push me. If I am not scared as hell about what I’m doing, there isn’t any point in doing it. If I’m not afraid, it means I haven’t set the bar high enough. I expect the fear. In fact, I wait for it. Because once it shows up, I know I’m about to pull off some shit. I know I’m about to do something important and impactful.

At midnight when my post “When Someone Says Suicide Is Selfish” went live, my heart started racing like no other. I was afraid–of the responses, of my own capacity to handle the responses, of reliving that pit in my life and of what writing something so unbaked would mean for the course of my blog. But, I still published it. I hardly slept. But, I still published it. I let my own conviction about the need for that piece in that moment outweigh the fear.

Now, that piece is one of the most significant and well-received posts I’ve ever penned. That piece changed the game. Baring my soul and sharing a story in that kind of way changed how I perceived myself as writer for the better. It was only the second or third time I wrote something and cried my way through both writing and proofing it. (Correction: cried my way through writing something that I chose to publish; we can’t count all of the diatribes about men hidden on my laptop.) That piece made everything and all of this shit that I’m sharing real. It made it real. It was more than words and a screen and some retweets. And it ached. And it hurt. And it sent pangs of icy doubt right through the center of my body. But, it was one of the best things I ever did on behalf of one of the best people I ever knew.

I am not fearless. I don’t want to be. I want to be afraid. I want the sweaty palms and the nervous “ums” and the shaking boots. Give it to me. Give me the fear so that I can sit side-by-side with it and prove it wrong every single time. Give me the fear so that when it’s all said and done and I’ve bossed up, I can remember that the fear never lasts. Give me the fear. Let me touch it. Let me cradle it. Let me lick its bitter and steely exterior in that crazed Huck kind of way. Give me the fear so that I can flash it a wink once the success has taken a seat at the table. Give me the fear so that I can remember how gratifying it feels to be courageous–not to live without fear, but to instead face it head-on with my boobs propped up and my head held high. I am not fearless. I am afraid. And that is motivating as a motherfucker.


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